The State of Michigan occupies a unique geographic position within the United States. Consisting of two peninsulas, Michigan has 3,288 miles of freshwater coastline, bordering four of the five Great Lakes. The two peninsulas are connected by the Mackinac Bridge. Built in 1957, this nearly five-mile bridge is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere.
Beginning nearly a million years ago until their final retreat about 35,000 to 10,000 years ago, Michigan, along with the northern half of the North American continent, was subjected to several successive advances and retreats of massive ice sheets, generally believed to have an average thickness of 6,000 feet. These ice sheets were responsible for excavating the Great Lakes as we see them today, and for the thousands of glacial surface formations known as moraines, eskers, drumlins, and kames, as well as the nearly 65,000 lakes that dot the state.
Following the final retreat of the glaciers, the area was first settled by various Native American tribes, who occupied the territory for thousands of years. At the time of the first European exploratory expeditions, the most populous tribes were Algonquian peoples, the three most populous being the Ojibwe (commonly referred to as the "Chippewa"), Odawa (Ottawa), and the Bodéwadmi (Potawatomi). The three nations co-existed peacefully as part of an informal confederation called the Council of Three Fires. Other Algonquian tribes in Michigan, were the Mascouten, the Menominee, the Miami, the Sac (or Sauk), and the Fox. The Wyandot were an Iroquoian-speaking people in this area, historically known as the Huron by the French.
Michigan’s first European colonies were established by French explorers in the 17th century, and the area was claimed as part of New France. After France's defeat in the French and Indian War in 1762, the region came under British rule. Britain ultimately ceded this territory to the newly independent United States after Britain's defeat in the American Revolutionary War. Michigan was admitted into the Union in 1837 as the 26th state.
Some of the more well-known natural attractions in Michigan are Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes on the Western coast along Lake Michigan.
In addition to the auto industry and the well-known names attached to it, Michigan has been the home of a number of internationally acclaimed professionals and artisans, among which are Mary Chase Perry Stratton, founder of Pewabic Pottery; Marshall Fredericks, designer of the Barbour Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle and the Spirit of Detroit in that city; Carl Milles, among whose numerous works many can be found at the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills and in Ingalls Mall in Ann Arbor; and several acclaimed architects such as Albert Kahn, Alden Dow, Eero and Eilel Saarinen, and Minuro Yamasaki.